Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Outsmarted by a Computer Hacker

Don't Give Out Personal Information

I like to think I have become somewhat savvy when it comes to computer do's and don'ts. Truth be told, when I hear of people that have been "HAD," because of giving out information they shouldn't, I think to myself, "why would you do that?" We all know there are scammers just waiting to hack our computers or trying to make money because we give them the information they need. I just didn't think that person would turn out to be me.

I totally blew it and here is where they got me. I started getting emails on my hotmail account about three months ago. The email was informing me that hotmail was working on updating their site. It basically said that I had to get back to them if I didn't want to lose my hotmail account. I had to fill out some form If I wanted to renew my account. I kept procrastinating on filling out the information, knowing they gave me a date with which to respond. Every day I got the same reminder that I needed to eventually fill out the form or no more email account. The number of emails I was receiving, got me anxious, because I obviously didn't want to lose my ability to send and receive emails.

Sunday afternoon I went to my local Caribou Coffee with my niece. We each ordered our favorite beverage and found a cozy booth to sink into. While she read her book and I read emails, I got an urgent message that said, my time was up to respond to the updated version of hotmail. I scrolled down and saw they wanted me to give them some information. I ended up giving out my password, my name and country. A voice in my head told me something was wrong, but all the emails I had received in the past, made me ignore the voice.

That evening, The phone rang and my sister picked up. I heard a serious tone in her voice as she spoke to the person on the other end. I wondered what the call was about and felt worried that something was wrong. It turned out to be dear friends of ours that wanted to inform me that my email account had been hacked. They explained they received a urgent letter which went out to everyone on my contact list. It stated something about me needing money so I could fly out to England to be with a sick cousin. My cousin needed a hysterectomy but couldn't afford the surgery. My friends felt the letter was a scam because they knew it wasn't my style to ask for money on-line. They also knew, if it was me, I would end a letter of this magnitude, with heartfelt thanks.

The least of my worries is, I can't log into my email account anymore and will have to set a new password. The worst part is, I'm embarrassed that I gave out personal information to some on-line con. I am also sad that some of my friends worried about me and some, so-called cousin. I am grateful for the phone call that alerted me to this situation. I never thought I would fall victim to these criminals but they got me when my guard was down. I hope this article will be helpful, so you don't have to go through the hassle and humiliation of being scammed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A St. Patrick's Day to Remember

Laura and Linda (I'm the on the right)
 I am proud to be of Irish heritage and don't hold back on St. Patrick's Day. It is an annual tradition for my sister and I, to go out to lunch for corn beef and cabbage. We go to our local American Legion for our favorite Irish meal. Jack, the chef there, starts cooking the corn beef at about 4AM and you can tell. The meat just falls apart on the fork and melts in your mouth. The inexpensive meal at $8.95, comes with plenty of food as you will see in the picture. The menu is: Corn Beef, Cabbage, Red Potatoes, Cooked Carrots and Raisin Soda Bread. You can't beat this price for all the food you get. If you are able to be part of the clean plate club, there is usually a nap following the eating experience.

St. Patrick's Day has a lot of meaning for me. I was diagnosed in 2004 with lung cancer (I never smoked) and had surgery to remove the tumour on this day. I can't believe that was already seven years ago. Wow, it seems like just yesterday I was going through surgery, chemo and radiation. I am so glad that is behind me, but take this day as a reminder. Love life and every day that you are on this earth as none of us knows when we will leave our loved ones. Be grateful, love eachother, don't hold back on telling people what they mean to you, don't spend time with people that don't treat you well, smell the roses, slow down, don't take the little things so seriously. These are just a few gems I have learned since my diagnosis.

This St. Patrick's Day has yet another special meaning to me. I will be with many of my loving Irish relatives. My late father's sister and husband, or my Aunt and Uncle, passed away recently. Philly and Dick had been very sick for the past couple of years. It makes sense, with their deep love for eachother, that they passed away, a day apart. They will be having their wake and funeral, side by side, just as they were, here on earth.

They were wonderful role-models to all of their nieces and nephews and other family members. One of the examples of their remarkable character and love for family, was back in 1972. This was the year my beautiful mother passed away from complications related to alcoholism. My father was also struggling with alcoholism and put himself into treatment right after the funeral. He knew he had five children counting on him and was ready to get help for his problem. My Aunt Philly and Uncle Dick took all five of the Rogers clan in, during the Christmas season. They gave us love and security and a Christmas we will never forget. This is an amazing act of kindness and christianity in itself, but understand that Philly and Dick had eight children of their own. Can you imagine the work that went into that Christmas with all those children. That is what they believed was the right thing to do for family. Take them in at their darkest hours and show them understanding, compassion and love.

I will never forget you Aunt Philly and Uncle Dick and I thank you for being there for me and my four siblings. You will be given a special place in heaven for all the love you gave your childen and extended family. I look forward to celebrating your lives with the rest of my relatives this evening at the wake and tomorrow at the funeral. You are forever in our hearts.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Week in the Life of a Cancer Survivor

This is the newly remodeled cancer center in St. Louis Park, MN

Time to go for my follow-up cat scan

The life of a cancer survivor can be very difficult and challenging. There have been many ups and downs in my journey since I was diagnosed in February of 2004. Before being diagnosed with lung cancer, I hated going to the doctor. I was scared of needles and couldn't even stand the smell of a doctor's office or hospital. I never thought I would ever get a disease, especially cancer. When I would hear stories about people that were very sick, I always felt confident that this would never happen to me. Little did I know what lay ahead.

My last catscan in December of 2010 revealed a spot on my right lung. This is the same lung that had a tumour back in 2004. I have had two such scares in the past which ended up disappearing by the next scan. I thought I would write about this past week of my follow-up scan and appointment with my oncologist. Here is a glimpse into a week in the life of a cancer survivor.
Beautiful Anita
Checking in for the cat scan

This is beautiful Anita. She always welcomes me with a lovely cheerful smile and bubbly personality. I think she is the perfect type of person to greet patients that are undoubtedly nervous. Time for me to fill out some necessary paper work. They want to make sure they have information that will keep me safe during the scan. They ask questions like: Are you pregnant, do you have diabetes, have you ever had a reaction to the dye they put in the I.V. and other health related questions. I will now hang out in the lounge and watch a little t.v.

They called my name and the xray technician walks me back to a small room where I sit on a recliner chair. The first thing I tell the nurse is that I am a tough poke because of all the needles that have gone in my arms and hands these last seven years. Some time she'll lay a warm towel on the arm or hand that she's going to put the needle in. This helps get the blood flowing better and gives us a better chance of getting a good vein right away. On this day she tries putting the needle in my arm. It stings as she is pushing the needle further up the vein. Eventually she apologizes and says that she just can't get it in far enough. I told her the hand is usually the place that works the best. She see's a good plump vein, puts the needle in and thankfully this time it works. She connects a I.V. line to the needle so they can deliver a dye into it during the scan. She walks me across the hall and has me lay on the catscan bed. The machine tells me when to hold my breath and when to let out my breath. This is so they can get a good picture of the lung area. The xray technician comes back in the room after this first xray and shoots dye into my I.V. She reminds me that it is going to feel warm all over my body when the dye reaches my blood stream. She also tells me it will feel as if I am urinating when the dye has gone throughout my body. She always monitors things to make sure I am not having a bad reaction to the dye or that the needle isn't stinging me. When she finishes injecting me with dye, she walks back into the xray room where the machine tells me when to inhale and when to exhale. In all, the scan itself only takes about five minutes.
Yae, scan over

Oncologist appointment to get the results

Thursday morning I woke up with butterfly's in my stomach, knowing I will soon get the results of my catscan. I probably only got about three hours of sleep. Some days I have to take medication to help reduce my anxiety, but today I decide against it. On my drive to St. Louis Park, I play my favorite jazz station to help me relax. I pull up to the valet parking lane and I'm off to check in at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center. This new cancer center is state of the art and was newly constructed to keep the patients as comfortable as possible. Walking in the front door, I hear the sounds of a pianist playing relaxing music for those sitting in the lounge. After checking in, I go into the cancer lounge and wait. I grab a blueberry muffin and a can of orange juice from the mini kitchen. The food and beverages are free to patients and family and friends of patients. I sat in front of the healing garden movie screen. This screen shows differen't pictures of a real garden that sits outside of the lounge. It is meant to help calm nervous patients as they wait for their appointment. I sat in front of the screen and did some deep breathing and meditating. My name is called and a wonderful volunteer who is another cancer survivor, walks me to my room. On the way to the room, I see Joan, one of my favorite nurses. We give eachother a big hug and I proceed to go in the room to wait for my oncologist. As I'm sitting in the room, I hear a familiar voice. It's another favorite nurse of mine who has become a good friend to me. Melissa is a one of a kind person and has a huge heart. Her and I hug and she tells me that she will switch with the nurse that was scheduled to take my vitals. She and Joan discuss how they need to go get the rolling blood pressure machine, because the one in the office makes me panic. They all understand that I struggle with anxiety and I can't stand getting my blood pressure taken. Once they used the electronic blood pressure machine and I screamed and threw the cuff off my arm. I reminded Melissa to keep my blood pressure a secret and just write it on a piece of paper which I'll look at when I leave. She is very respectful of my ideosynchrosies and anxieties. After getting my blood pressure, she takes my pulse, temperature, weighs me, and checks to see if I am on any new medications. She finishes her duties and we go into our normal routine of catching up on our lives.

There is a knock on the door and I tell Brenda, my oncologist, to come in. Melissa slips out and it's time to hear the results. Brenda asks me if I have a cold as she heard me hacking. I told her I didn't think so. She starts going into the normal cancer assessment questions and I stopped her mid sentence. I told her I needed to know how the scan turned out and she could do the assessment later. She had a serious look on her face and I held my head in my hands and said, "Oh my God, what?" She said that the good news was that the spot was gone but now I had three more spots. Two on the lower lobe of my right lung and one in the middle.  She hesitantly mentioned that one of the spots was 6 centimeters. I found myself blurting out the "F" bomb and "This can't happen, I have never been so happy." She was very patient and let me cry. I have never cried at an appointment but I couldn't hold it in this time. She reminded me that the chances of the cancer coming back after almost seven years, would be rare and to try to hold onto that. She also suggested I make an appointment with the cancer therapist to help me through the three month wait until the next scan. Knowing how upset I was, she repeated that I sounded congested and that can affect a cat scan. When the appointment was over and I was walking out of the cancer center, I saw my friend, Melissa. She asked me how it went and I broke down. She held me in her arms and let me cry. She pulled me into a room and told me in no uncertain terms to listen closely. She said that the fact the other spot disappeared and now I have three new ones, says a lot. She said, "Linda, the reason the oncologist asked if you had a cold is because you sound congested. You get respiratory infections frequently and I can tell you that you have some kind of respiratory thing going on." She was so compassionate and reassuring and I thank her so much for that. On the way out, the valet parker, who is a gal I went to school with, asked me how it went. I again broke down and she too held me and tried to reassure me. I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful support system at my clinic. Since that appointment, I have noticed that I am hacking a lot, sneezing and sound very congested. Hopefully it's just allergies that gave me the three new spots. Please say a prayer that all will be ok. I hope I can get through the next three months with positivity and peace.
My nurse friends and I

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Littered Thoughts

image by google
Her mind becomes littered
with refuse of fear

Whilst bottles of anguish
pour "what if" in her ear

This wasteland of mind
holds her tight in it's grip

In tumultuous waters
she's like a lost ship

As the clock ticks closer
to her judgement day

Her thoughts become scattered
her peace is at bay

Turn trash cans of waste
into trinkets of gold

As you face the messenger
stand tall, brave and bold

It's a test of your faith
to face what they say

When results are announced
it's good news, she'll pray

A day in the life of a cancer SURVIVOR

Time to enter the donut hole

  Just an update on my lung cancer journey. Today I had my three month, follow-up, cat scan. I had graduated from every six months, to one year, but the last scan showed a tiny nodule on the lower lobe of my right lung.  This is the same lung that had a tumour 6.5 years ago.  I have had two other ify scans and it all turned out ok. The first time they saw something whispy on the lung which turned out to be pneumonia. The second questionable scan was a nodule just like this time. When I went back for the follow-up scan, the spot had disappeared. My oncologist says that with the amount of cat scans I get, I am bound to have spots show up from time to time. It is so much easier for them to say that, as I sit there trying to catch my breath.  I will be seven years cancer-free this coming St. Patrick's Day. I go in Thursday to meet with my oncologist and get the results of the scan today. I hope to be celebrating a clean scan on March 17. I can picture it now, me at a St. Patrick's Day event, drinking a cold libation to celebrate the mark of another mile-stone.  Here's to the Luck of the Irish.